Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn

Jonathan Cott, Author
Jonathan Cott, Author Alfred A. Knopf $24.95 (438p) ISBN 978-0-394-57152-2
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Best remembered for his writings on Japan, where he settled in 1890, Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) is too often pigeonholed as a decadent aesthete or a stylist of overripe prose. Interweaving generous selections from Hearn's own letters, articles, essays, confessions and stories in this moving, superlative biography, Cott ( The Search for Omm Sety ) gives us all sides of the man--the muckraking Cincinnati, Ohio, journalist of Zola-esque realism; the ethnographer of tropical Martinique, Creole folkways in New Orleans and Japanese Buddhism; the mordant humorist; and the unabashed sensualist. The Greek-born, half-Irish bohemian also exposed America's hypocrisies concerning sex and race, prejudices which he experienced firsthand in his short-lived first marriage to a mulatto woman in Ohio. Paradoxically, in coercive, traditional Japan, where he married a submissive young Japanese woman, freewheeling individualist Hearn found his ``land of dreams'' and felt the spirit of ancient Greece flickering in sacred shrines and groves. Illustrations. (Feb.)
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